A Laurel school resource officer found a high school student with a handgun inside the school on Thursday, February 10, 2022, and took possession of the weapon without incident, according to Laurel Schools superintendent Dr. Linda Filpula.
The student was arrested and faces several charges related to the incident, according to Laurel police. The student was placed in Youth Detention in Yellowstone County.
The officer got a tip about the student from other students around 9:40 a.m. and immediately proceeded to where he was told the student would be. High school principal Shawnda Zahara-Harris joined the officer in confronting the student.
Filpula said she does not believe the student was intending to use the weapon at the time: "I have no indication that there was an intent to shoot up the school or that any harm was directed toward any specific students."
The student told the officer that he was carrying the weapon for protection, according to a news release from Police Chief Stan Langve. The student told other students who saw the gun out that they shouldn't say anything "or else," according to Langve.
The student is a minor but the age and identity were not released. The student faces charges of assault with a weapon, minor in possession of a weapon in a school building, and minor in possession, according to Langve.
The weapon in question was a handgun with a loaded magazine brought from home. Langve said police do not believe anyone else was involved.
Most students were in class at the time, but this one was not.
The school did not go into lockdown because Filpula says the building didn’t have an administrator in the office at the exact moment to execute it.
"One administrator is out with a family situation, and the other was in the hallway," she said. "You plan, but there’s always something different in each situation, and you have to make a judgment call. If we had any indication there was further danger, a different course of action would have been taken."
Filpula has seen this before. A Laurel middle school student was found with a gun on campus in October 2017.
While there is no silver lining to these events, Filpula says dedication from the entire community has prevented the worst.
"It’s really about everybody being aware," she said. "We also have great parents who have reached out to us, saying, 'I'm hearing this.' Or they will see something on social media."
"That’s the type of communication that’s going to prevent something tragic from happening."
The school district and the Laurel Police Department are conducting separate investigations into the matter.
"Bringing a weapon to school, you’re looking at an expulsion hearing," Filpula said. "Parallel to that, the student will be charged and will have legal ramifications."